There’s always change at the end of the school year at Cheyney University.
Most students prepare for next semester’s course load, while graduates move on to greater pursuits.
A new show brings viewers into the lives of college students. From move-in day, to long lines for academic counseling — the show is a trip down memory lane for anyone who has ever visited a college campus.
“We’re Just Talking” is an online show based on the reality of many 18- to 25-year-old African Americans who are college students and/or recent graduates.
The show is loosely based on what creator Cedric Perry, a 2008 graduate of Cheyney, experienced as an undergraduate student.
“‘WJT’ is based on about 80 percent of things I experienced as a student,” he said.
The show humorously focuses on many aspects of life at HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).
Topics on the show include: relationships, student government, the senior epiphany and the “post college struggle.”
The latter topic is described as the period following college when graduates begin to look for their dream job in their major and soon realize it may not exist.
Graduates also must make the decision to keep chasing their dream with little money or work in a different field so they can make enough money to repay student loans.
During his senior year, Perry had what many called the “senior epiphany,” that moment close to graduation when a student has invested years in their major and finally realizes the major they chose isn’t what they want to do with their life.
Perry, who has a degree in business administration decided he wanted to have a career in television.
Perry originally began following his dream through “PICK 6,” a Web talk show he launched after graduation. However, with a decline in Black sitcoms, Perry wanted to do something to bring Black sitcoms back to television.
As a student, he and a few friends had an idea for a show, but they were too busy to invest time in it. Finally, three years after graduation, Perry revisited the idea and created “We’re Just Talking.”
The name of the show comes from a common term used by many young people to describe their current relationship status.
“We’re just talking is what a lot of young people say when they aren’t serious about someone,” Perry said. “It’s a way of not committing to a serious relationship.”
But, the name of the show has a deeper meaning.
Perry wants African Americans to challenge issues in the Black community and inspire people to do more than talk. His show sends a message of setting goals and accomplishing dreams.
The show follows the lives of several students. Topping the line-up is the hilarious Andre Hawkins played by Stefan Matthews, who is in constant pursuit of his love interest Melyssa King. Hawkins always feels like he’s getting closer to King when she says it’s not serious.
King is older than the other freshmen because she decided to take a two-year break from school instead of going straight to college. She made a lot of mistakes in life, including focusing too much on boys and not enough on school — but she is learning to make better decisions as she gets older.
Courtney Nicole Dean, who plays King, says everyone should be able to relate to her character and learn from King’s mistakes.
“I want people to understand that there’s nothing wrong with making mistakes,” she said. “Everyone makes them. You just have to acknowledge your mistakes and move on.”
“WJT” is filmed on the campuses of Cheyney and West Chester University using HD cameras. It’s edited using Cyberlink Power Director. Each show has a complete script and uses very few adlibs.
“One thing that’s unique about the show is it’s written using a full, 22-minute sitcom format which is different than regular Web shows which average six minutes,” Perry said.
Now, Perry is pitching the show to major networks in hopes of getting the show televised. The cast is spreading word about the show through various events such as open mic nights, which Kyle Morris, who plays Derek Holmes, frequents.
Episodes of “We’re Just Talking” can be seen on YouTube.
Looking back isn’t always easy.
Motivated by the memory of her mother, Miss Cheyney University Skakeemah Simmons has made education her top priority.
According to Simmons, she was always an honor roll student, but after the death of her mother, there was a push to succeed further in college.
Her mother, Terry Hilliard, was in the second tower during the Sept. 11th attacks.
As a sixth-grade student at her school in Jersey City, Simmons had a clear view of the buildings falling from her classroom window.
Hilliard survived the attacks and arrived home later that night, but she later died from MRSA, which was caused by inhaling toxic chemicals while trying to escape.
Simmons remembers the day her mother died, just three weeks after she began college and she honors her mother by continuing to do well and move forward.
“I’m glad it happened,” she said. “I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t value education as much. I have to graduate because this is what she wanted.”
As Miss Cheyney, Simmons strived to enforce the values of the university and make sure fellow students are aware of the importance of being a proud Cheyney student. Throughout her reign she used her “Together We Make a Difference” campaign to encourage students.
Dexter Stucke, a friend of Simmons and graduate of Lincoln University admires the way Simmons has represented not only Cheyney but all Black colleges.
“I think many HBCU’s over the past few years have been looked at as unnecessary due to Blacks being accepted into primary white institutions,” he said. “I’m always inspired by the droves of Black leaders who attend HBCUs because they show me that in a world full of inequalities there are still endless possibilities for growth.”
According to Simmons, Cheyney is a land of opportunity where young scholars receive everything they need to become successful in their endeavors.
“I feel like I have everything I need for life after college,” she said. “Cheyney has prepared me for the future.”
She wants students to use their time at Cheyney to take ownership of their futures by using the resources available to them, including internship assistance and other various programs aimed at preparing students for their careers.
In an environment where individuality is sometimes lost, Simmons stays true to herself by maintaining her personality and morals.
“I won Miss Cheyney because of who I am, not who I should be,” she said. “I bring my personality to the crown. People say I shouldn’t ‘act like that’ or ‘do that,’ but that’s just who I am.”
This school year, Simmons had a full itinerary — including being a student mentor, working as an intern for the Wendy Williams Show in New York and being a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
She credits time management and dedication to her title for her success.
“I made a promise to the university, grades come first,” she said.